IILA is an International Organisation that was established in 1966 by the Italian government of the time to encourage dialogue and mutual collaboration between Italy and the 20 countries of Latin America: in essence, to get to know each other better, to cultivate the unquestionable friendship that unites us and to address the challenges of the future together.

For me, a career diplomat for 35 years, it is an honour and pleasure to put my experience and my knowledge – both of the region and my country, Italy – at the service of all member countries, facing the challenge of moving from the bilateral dimension to the multilateral dimension, which is fully in line with the requirements of this particular moment we are living in.

The atmosphere of dialogue in our organisation can be seen as a small but significant contribution to the region’s stability, a valuable and indispensable asset, especially now, in this context of the pandemic in which we tell ourselves every day that we will get out of this only if we remain united. Regarding mutual collaboration, I would like to stress that the cooperation projects that we carry out in the region, both with Italian cooperation resources and through the implementation of programmes financed by the EU, always respond to the demands expressed by the local governments, with whom we have a very fluid relationship through the ambassadors who represent them before our Organisation. This intergovernmental character, which other bi-regional bodies do not have, represents an important added value for IILA.

In a year as difficult and atypical as 2020 was, and 2021 is, at no time has IILA interrupted or diminished its activity, on the contrary: we managed to complete a concrete and shared work programme, that has allowed us to achieve meaningful results, appreciated by all members, and that offers an even more solid base for the relations between Italy, Europe, and Latin America.

An unexpected way of working - the remote format - has allowed us to share experiences to face new emergencies: the fight against Covid-19, the dramatic social and economic consequences of the pandemic, the challenges of climate change and digitalisation. We have organised a rich agenda of virtual meetings between Italian and Latin American authorities and experts, to exchange best practices and to train workers in specific areas, entrepreneurs, researchers and students, the area of training is one of the most traditional areas of our work.

There have also been cultural events, both online and in-person, and I invite you to take a virtual tour of the exhibition on the Qhapac Ñan, the road of the Incas, which will remain open until 22 August at the Museo delle Civiltà (Museum of Civilisations) in Rome.

We have reformulated our cooperation projects to adapt them to the new requirements and we have launched others that respond to the needs of our time: promoting sustainable transformation, especially in cities, economic development and social cohesion, empowerment of women, digitalisation and innovation of SMEs, especially in agriculture, and collaboration with Italian health institutions. Another positive development can be seen in the programmes financed by the EU in the region and implemented by IILA: EUROsociAL, PAcCTO, EUROFRONT, COPOLAD.

Almost all of IILA's projects and initiatives are oriented towards achieving the SDGs: our commitment to the environment is a fact that has been made very clear and validated through the strengthening of the "green cities" project, which aims to intensify the "alliance" between Italy and LA to meet the challenge of growing urbanisation, and through initiatives to support technological innovation in the economic and production systems (precision agriculture) of the member countries, in order to produce better and in an environmentally friendly manner.

Our activity, especially this year's, is also part of a journey, a path, which on 25 and 26 October will culminate in the 10th Italy-Latin America and the Caribbean Conference, jointly organised by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and IILA. And here I believe it is appropriate to explain the role played by IILA in the organisation of the biennial Conferences that have been held since 2003. Our Organisation has collaborated from the very beginning in several aspects: from the logistics (sometimes extremely complex) to the choice of the contents, the direct dialogue with the Latin American protagonists and the organisation of the preparatory events, including the drafting of the very rich work agenda, which is what guarantees that between one Conference and the next, the decisions taken at the last edition will be followed up. In other words: a calendar full of events, projects and initiatives through which Latin America's relations with Italy and Europe come to life and become tangible.

This important edition, which coincides with the post-pandemic de-escalation in much of the world, will offer the opportunity to discuss together the themes of Italy's G20 Presidency, People, Planet and Prosperity, in the framework of relations between Italy and the countries of the region so that this phase of recovery marks a new, fairer, more sustainable and resilient normality. This year for the first time we have invited to the Conference the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy and some European countries, which underlines the relevance of the European dimension.

A unique occasion, this 10th Conference, for our member countries, who are learning together to turn this sudden tragedy into an opportunity to look with confidence to the new challenges.

We desire to move forward in fulfilling the commitment to unite Italy and Europe with Latin America, taking advantage of every possibility of cooperation for the benefit of all citizens. We will gladly continue to collaborate with the EU-LAC Foundation to bring new ideas and initiatives to further strengthen the bi-regional relationship.

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